Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Importance of Being Grandad

We had a sad day this week. My husband's Grandad passed away. He wasn't my Grandad so I wouldn't feel right writing an emotional tribute, that's not what this is and they are not my words to say. I do know that he was very loved.

Then I read an article by Julian Owen in The Simple Things about his thoughts on grandads and the impact they had had on his early years and life afterwards.

It got me to thinking about Grandads. And what a treasure they are.

I was privileged enough to have known both my grandads for the first 25 years of my life. Grandad and Grandpa, both very different but both loved just as much.

Grandad was part of my heritage. He was what made me a quarter German - a little piece of history that set me apart from my classmates. While their grandparents were fighting for the Brits, mine was caught up in the complexities of Nazi Germany. He made me interesting. It was because of him that I had an unusual last name. 

When Grandad started work in England after the war he became a printer. I'm not sure exactly what he printed, but I like to imagine that he was at the helm of Fleet Street in its hey day - another link to me and my journalistic career. Grandad was a bit of a rebel. Against the wishes of his doctor and probably his wife, he liked to smoke, he enjoyed a good pub lunch and a pint. He once said to Joyce on a family occasion with a wry smile: "We're just going to the pub... where we will not be smoking or drinking alcohol". He was a man of adventure, who liked travel and who wanted to enjoy life.

Grandpa is by contrast the height of Britishness. A man of belief and principle. Cambridge educated, he went on to become headmaster of a public boys' school. He was a disciplinarian who always used to flick our elbows off the table and stop us from running in circles round their circular house. When he was a bit fitter, Grandpa was a well respected watercolour artist who enjoyed his vegetable patch and who retired to Norfolk for a well-earned piece of the good life. He likes tea in a proper cup and saucer, accompanied by bread and homemade jam or cake. In a few months Grandpa will be 93. He still goes out for a walk round the village each day, albeit with the assistance of his 'wheels' and a high-vis jacket and although he might not be able to hear or see quite so well, he is still very much Grandpa.

And out of these two great men came my parents and subsequently me. How nice it is to think that there's a little piece of them in me, and that this will be carried down into our children. History. Heritage. And family pride.

And now the baton of Grandfatherness has been passed to our dads. I pray that our little girl and all her cousins will experience the joy of climbing onto Grandad's lap for a story, looking for the wonder in each day and being spoilt with secret sweets and all-encompassing hugs. I pray that the fatherly wisdom we, as parents, are still learning will be imparted to them and that each visit to Grandad's house will be filled with fun, adventure, laughter and tender moments of absolute security and friendship.

The role of Grandad should never be taken lightly, neither by Grandad himself or by us as parents, for Grandads are the treasure of the earth who come from decades past but who send us into the future with a smile, a hug and the confidence to face the world as we are, for we are just made up of little pieces of them.


  1. Hi Emily,
    I am so sorry for the loss of Jon's grandad.
    I enjoyed reading your post, very lovely.
    Take care dear Emily, even though you live far away, you always have a special place in my heart.xx


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